What Is Mystical About Meditation?

By Dr. Pradeep K. Chadha MBBS. DCP. DPM. PG Diploma Psychotherapy Studies on February 01, 2018

Till there was scientific evidence that the earth was round, people everywhere believed that earth was flat. Copernicus was victimized as a result by the Establishment at that time.

Meditation has been practiced in all faiths for thousands of years. Because it was practiced by religious people, there was an awe about it. Even as late as the second half of last century, many people in the West considered it “hocus pocus”. They were afraid of it. Even now many people would consider meditation to be New Age (whatever that means). This belief has decreased remarkably over the years, thanks to some brave scientists.
Herbert Benson was an assistant professor in the University of Harvard when some practitioners of Transcendental Meditation approached him for doing research on meditation. He refused. It was “hocus pocus” for him. He did not want to waste any time on it. The meditators, based in California at that time approached him again a few years later. They eventually convinced him to conduct research. Herbert Benson , very reluctantly started the research. As he learnt more about the process, he was surprised to find out that meditation lowered the stress levels by acting on the nervous system. He then published his book – The Relaxation Response in the year 1975. It was an instant hit. Suddenly Meditation became a science. Since then quite a bit of research has been conducted on the subject. 
A few years ago, Transcendental Meditation, popularly known as TM was in fashion. Currently Mindfulness is the rage in the mental health field.  Suddenly from “hocus pocus”, meditation became the talk of the town. From Eastern mysticism, it has become a darling of the western world. 
According to the American Heart Association, TM helps in lowering of blood pressure (1).TM also reduces inflammation and overall health  (2).Meditation affects the autonomic nervous system and thus affects the immune system as a result (3).It is when the scientists started to look at meditation that its mysticism vanished. The lable that it carried as something that could not be explained earlier, suddenly became a household name. The science of meditation has proven that there are many more avenues of knowledge that have yet to be explored. There is evidence to suggest that herbs and acupuncture, hypnosis and psychotherapy work. Just because not many people have put in effort to study them does not mean that they do not work. We cannot hide our ignorance behind the veil of limited scientific evidence as we do many times. 
1.Brook RD, Appel LJ, Rubenfire M, et al; American Heart Association Professional Education Committee of the Council for High Blood Pressure Research, Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing, Council on Epidemiology and Prevention, and Council on Nutrition, Physical Activity. Beyond medications and diet: alternative approaches to lowering blood pressure: a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Hypertension. 2013;61:1360­ 1383. 
2.Creswell JD, Taren AA, Lindsay EK, et al. Alterations in resting­state functional connectivity link mindfulness meditation with reduced interleukin­6: a randomized controlled trial. Biol Psychiatry. 2016;80:53­61.
3.Kox M et al. The influence of concentration/meditation on autonomic nervous system activity and the innate immune response: a case study. 
Psychosomatic Medicine.2012 Jun;74(5):489-94.

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